Coming into the game Saturday afternoon the odds were the Blue Jays patchwork lineup, featuring the likes of Brad Glen, Darin Mastroianni, Steve Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki, were going to be severely over matched facing Chicago White Sox staff ace Chris Sale.
With the left handed power bats on the bench and slugger Jose Bautista still shelved with a hamstring issue, it was shaping up to be a frustrating afternoon in front of 39,623 Blue Jays faithful at Rogers Centre.
The only positive was Blue Jays young rookie sensation Marcus Stroman was toeing the rubber for the home team. Having put together an excellent 8 inning, 3 hit, 7K, 1 run effort up against the Yankees in his previous start, there was some hope he could match zeros with the dominant Sale.
Through the first 3 innings this is exactly what happened. Both Sale and Stroman were sharp, shutting down what ever little offense each team could muster. In the fourth inning the Blue Jays finally broke through with a two run Mastroianni home run, his first on the season with the big club.
From that point the game moved quite rapidly with both pitchers matching outs, including a sixth inning that took just ten minutes to complete.
Unfortunately that would be the last inning Stroman would complete. After getting two quick outs, Chicago’s Cuban slugger Jose Abreu rifled a double to left-center, which was followed by an unintentional-intentional walk to DH Adam Dunn.
This is where the game took a turn for the bizarre. Toronto manager John Gibbons inexplicably removed Stroman from the game after the Dunn walk. There was of course the standard philosophy of pitch count, however the 96 pitches Stroman tossed this afternoon were very low-stress pitches, he had been on cruise control. Instead of letting the young pitcher work his way through Dayan Viciedo, who he had twice handled easily in previous plate appearances, the move was made to the pen for Dustin McGowan. A move that immediately backfired as Viciedo turned around a first pitch, hanging slider from McGowan and immediately deposited it into the 2nd deck in left field for a 3-2 White Sox lead.
The Blue Jays for a second game in a row put up a valiant fight in the ninth inning, scoring a lone run after a Anthony Gose double and Kawasaki single. Their rally managed to get slugger Edward Encarnacion to the plate as the winning run proved fruitless as he grounded a Zach Putnam sinker to short for the final out of the game. A 4-3 loss that could have been very different had Gibbons shown the patience with Stroman in that seventh inning. Standard convention states we would never actually know how it would have turned out, however leaving the young hurler in to finish what he had started certainly would have removed the “what if” question from the minds of many.
The finals lines for both starting pitchers went as follows:
Chris Sale (W 7-1 2.30): 7 INN, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 5BB, 6K (108-65)
Marcus Stroman (ND): 6.2 INN, 2H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 6K (96-65)
Sunday’s first pitch is at 1:07 with Jose Quintana (4-7 3.69) facing off against Mark Buehrle (10-4 2.52). After letting Saturday afternoons game slip through their fingers the Blue Jays will be looking for a strong effort in order to split the series and maintain their fragile lead in the AL East.